Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Stage fear - an interesting journey and discovery

In school, I was one of these calm, studious, supposedly outstanding students who was very scared to stand in front of a class and talk for a minute. I used to avoid all extempore sessions and speech contests. Tamil was my second language. It must have been a boring afternoon for my Tamil teacher, I thought, when she asked how many of us wanted to participate in a Tamil Debate. These questions used to freak me a lot, because, my name was for some reason on the list all the time and I used to refuse any way. That afternoon, my teacher just came over and showed me the list of selected candidates. My name figured in there and to some people in life, you just cannot say 'No'. It could be because you love them, respect them, adore them, admire them, are afraid of their temper, or all of the above. To me it was clearly respect and the temper aspects. So, I had to say 'Yes' to talk on the stage.

A lot of preparations followed. The team had one student from Class 8, Class 9, Class 10, Class 11, and Class 12. I was the first to speak because I was in Class 8. I still recall how I could not even eat properly that afternoon.. Made me think, why the school always had such high priority events only late afternoons. The tension waves were all over me, throughout the day. My friends made sure ( Those friends are the ones who can love you unconditionally..I was lucky to have a group like that... .) that they sat closest to the stage that day. The idea was for me to look at them and talk ( They promised not to giggle when I start talking...) and so I can speak coherently and get off the mike fast.

All set and the debate topic was announced and the participants introductions happened... to me, it seemed they happened too quick.. and even before I knew, I was standing in front of the whole school... About 1500 students is what I can recall now. One quick look around the school ground and I wanted to close my eyes and run off from the stage. I looked for my friends. The school games teacher who is usually in-charge of organizing the crowd in the ground had moved them around a little and I had no idea where they were. I was not able to start... Incidentally looked sideways and saw six faces smiling and one hand waving... They were all around and suddenly I felt a little better.. and my teacher's voice came from the stairs to the stage... Zapped back to reality, I started off. I had a rehearsed speech written on a piece of paper with me. I knew it was a debate and I had to face the crowd, but obviously you cannot look sidewards and argue :) So with no choice, I looked straight ahead of me ( thankful that all stages were always taller than the ground, so my line of sight was different from the audience's line of sight...) and continued to talk.

The next thing I knew was a loud applause from the audience and a tear drop waiting to spill out of my eye. Now, the worse thing, I thought then, about debates was having to sit on the stage even after you are done.. The other nine students finished their talk in forty minutes from then and after the wrap-up speech by both the team leads and the judge's decision, I stepped out of the stage exactly one hour later. For the first time, I smiled that day, when my friends came over to congratulate me. My team won, but for them it is their friend won and to me, I could finally get on stage and face a crowd.

There was a similar episode when I spoke in English for ten minutes, the first time on stage. English seemed tougher than Tamil because, ever since my first attempt on stage, Tamil speeches seemed easier. In my last term at school, I was pulled into a debate even without a prior notice. It came out very well and I thought I graduated in Tamil speeches in front of a large audience.

That said, my first ever speech after school was two months ago in a conference.. It was less than fifteen minutes. It was different set of friends and different modes of wishes and different set of audience and different level of magnitude this time, but the base fear was still there and I can call it 'Composed Stage Fear', but it was still there..

Last week, I had agreed for a class room session on a subject of my interest in an institute I love. I did not realize what I was getting into till I started preparing for the session, one day before the grand day. It was a grand day because it was my first ever lecture and first ever day long session. All the stories of my past stage experiences came flashing like a movie strip in my mind. What was common in all the speeches is that there were always good luck wishes from people, except that the people, the mode of wish were different every time. I knew it was getting me very tensed, but then I managed a smile. This time around, all the wishes were on the phone and email.. I did finally make that grand entrance to the lecture hall.

Although, at first glance, it seemed to me that it was a tough day to tide through, after the first three minutes of my class, I knew that I was going to be okay. Either that, or the very idea that, my student psychology guess turned out right. Every student wanted a field day from the usual class and my session could give them that thought. Whatever was the cause, I did get compliments that I never would have imagined when I gave my first speech. I consider this as my graduation speech.

I realized that teaching surely has something more than I thought it did. I salute the teaching community for all the strength, the speed, the confidence, the sincerity, the command, the understanding, the time management and the patience that the good teacher in them exhibits and continue to maintain throughout their career.

I also found out that the only way to stay young is to be in teaching profession. If I were to give a tag line for teaching profession, it might be: Get older, Get wiser, and Stay younger. From my first speech to the graduation speech, it has taken me 15 years time, but then, today, I can say that I know to talk and it is tough to hold an audience to the speaker throughout. I cannot boast of being a great speaker, but still, from where I was to where I have come to, I think, its been a good-enough progress. All thanks to the cheers from my friends and family for every speech session. There have been only six times in fifteen years that I got on stage and all the six times I was armed with wishes. So, my take here is when you are doing something that means a lot to you, just dial a friend or family member and take a nice cheerful wish, no matter how well or not well your preparation for the big day is. Well, do I also have to tell you that I took wishes from God as well?? I am sure you would know, I did.

I realized :

Good luck wishes and Prayers really work :) and they work for people who want them to

What once seemed impossible can really become possible with a little encouragement, an appreciation, good preparation, lot of cheers, some good wishes and one word of prayer.

It is always one person or one moment or one thought or one word that initiates any effort. For me, it was my Tamil teacher who (back then, as I used to say) "forced" me to win today. The potential she saw in me back then, I felt, when I walked out of the lecture hall.

You could be the catalyst that helps to bring out some one's potential.

It is always nice to come out of a fear that you thought you'd never be able to.

Don't miss the next chance you get to help someone ease their fear.


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Kite said...

It feels as if you have penned down my thoughts. And yes, one person You have helped to fight fear of writing is Me. Thanks Deepa.

Dew Drop said...

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Musing Gal said...

Lot of walkign down the memory lane.. I remember similar incidents.. "Composed Stage Fear" - nice way to put it...
Good one Dew!

Arun said...

Hey as I was reading this particular topic I was taken back to my schooling days as there were many such occations that i had faced too....nice one...keep up the spirit....

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